Before the November 13, 2017 sunrise, watch for the super-close pairing of the sky’s two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter. They’ll be in the sunrise direction, low in the eastern sky at dawn. Depending on where you live worldwide, Venus and Jupiter will come closest together on the sky’s dome on the morning of November 13 or 14. They’ll be snuggling plenty close on both dates, close enough to fit easily inside the same binocular field (or possibly even a single field of view in a low-powered telescope).
At their closest, Venus and Jupiter will be 0.3o apart. That’s less than the apparent diameter of the moon (0.5o).
What’s more, you won’t want to miss the waning crescent moon swinging by these worlds later this week. See the chart below.
The Northern Hemisphere has the big advantage for spotting the dazzling twosome at morning dawn. That’s because the ecliptic – marking the path of the sun, moon and planets in our sky – makes a relatively perpendicular angle with respect to the eastern horizon before dawn now, as seen from the northern half of Earth’s globe. The steep angle of the ecliptic places the planets more above the sunrise than to one side of it, making them easier to see.
Venus and Jupiter rise sooner before the sun at more northerly latitudes. For instance, at mid-northern latitudes (like those in the United States or Europe), they rise better than an hour before the sun. At the equator (0o latitude), these two worlds come up about 50 minutes before sunrise; and at temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Venus and Jupiter rise 40 minutes (or less) before sunrise.
Click here for an almanac to know the precise time that Venus and Jupiter rise into your sky.
No matter where on Earth you live, you’ll want to find an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunrise to maximize your chances of spotting Venus and Jupiter near the horizon. Better yet, stand atop a hill or balcony, to peek farther over the horizon than you would from level ground.
After the morning of November 13, you’ll see Jupiter climb higher up in the morning sky day by day. Meanwhile, Venus will plunge sunward day by day, to be lost in the sunrise glare by year’s end.
Bottom line: Watch for the super-close pairing of the sky’s 2 brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, around November 13, 2017. They’ll be in the sunrise direction, low in the east at dawn.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.